Global Outreach

An Artistic Angle on my Internship in Poland

Posted by Christopher McAttee on Jul 21, 2015 9:06:00 AM

As a philosophy and language student ultimately hoping to start a career in art therapy, I have been thinking about how to bring art into the lives of the children at the Centre of the Holy Mother of Mercy just outside Warsaw where I’m serving my internship in Poland with CARITAS For Children.

Naturally I feel a deep desire to introduce, incorporate, and encourage different art activities, but the main question was, “How?”

I initially had no idea how I was going to invite kids to draw or paint with me. I’m just the guy who helps with English and spits out some commands in Polish to get them to pay attention. How was I supposed to introduce them to my artistic side which wants to teach them how charcoal can be smudged to show depth and value? 

The kids at the Centre are developing an interest in art. The kids at the Centre are developing an interest in art.

Then, roughly two weeks into my internship, it struck me. Where do the kids tend to hang out the most? Naturally, the computer room. The place where they shoot dinosaurs, search for treasure, or color online drawings; ironically, using painting apps.

Starting out with a drawing of a bunny. Starting out with a drawing of a bunny.

So that is where I started working on my own drawings and projects. I had been working on a charcoal project of a young women playing an accordion on the main street of Gdansk, a northern port city of Poland. As the drawing progressed more and more, children started to come and watch me at work. Most of them were girls, but a few guys would stop by as well.

About three days into the project I asked them if they would like to join me. They initially were hesitant, but gladly accepted when I uploaded a very simple picture of a rabbit on to my laptop. Baby steps always help.

Tedek and I draw landscapes. Tedek and I draw landscapes.

That afternoon I had a young man, Tedek, join me for a landscape drawing. The next day I had a group of six kids drawing Bugs Bunny. They started wanting to draw pictures of the Minions and Garfield. The day after we did just that.

I ran out of charcoal supplies in a week. I have since then taught a water color project and hope to soon do a big chalk project outside. Using the square stones on the ground I would like to draw, using a grid, a huge chalk drawing of the founder of the order of the Centre of the Holy Mother of Mercy.

The trick is to innovate the children’s mind set to show that art can be a universal language. It is the root of creativity and the messenger of patience, persistence, and finally at the end of the project, pride and confidence.

The children are producing artwork. The children are producing artwork.

Naturally children have their individual styles of drawing. Since I am the sole provider of instruction they are keenly aware of how I do the project. Funny enough though, they are bent upon drawing from point A to point B. From point B to point C. In my studies I have learned that the best way to start a drawing is to see the object in its entirety, proportion accurately points of importance, and finally construct the object as a whole with the details coming last.

Whoa Chris, slow down, these are kids after all! The way they draw is just as important as how you wish them to draw. How their minds function when considering the depiction of a new reality is extremely important to understand as is adjusting my instruction accordingly.

So I learn from them just as much as they learn and follow my lead. Trying to adapt my knowledge to their minds is and will continue to be a process, but just as in drawing I am focusing on major areas and connecting areas so that I can ultimately see the full picture. The full picture being an imperative to include art into these children’s daily lives.

We are moving on to another water color project next, and needless to say, I am extremely excited.


Topics: Poland, Warsaw, internship in Poland

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